Mark “Coonrippy” Brown became an Internet star last year when he posted a video of himself (dressed in bib overalls) on YouTube dancing with his raccoon roommate, Gunshow, to Aretha Franklin’s “Chain of Fools.” The clip went viral and was aired on “Good Morning America” and the “Tonight Show.” When Gunshow died earlier this year, Brown adopted another raccoon , Rebekah. He bottle fed the orphaned raccoon and later made a video of himself showering with Rebekah.
Last month, officers from the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency showed up at Brown’s home in Gallatin and took Rebekah from him. Early reports said the move came after wildlife officers saw Brown with his raccoon companions on the Internet. TWRA officials, however, say their action was in response to a complaint from a neighbor.
Brown, a former animal control officer, said the TWRA representatives told him it was against state law to keep wildlife in captivity.
“But my argument with them was that if this is the case, then every elementary school and biology class in high school and college is in violation if they’ve got tadpoles in an aquarium or a garter snake, or even if a child brings a box turtle to show-and-tell,” Brown told Vice.com? .
Brown has told his fans on Facebook and YouTube to ask Gov. Bill Haslam to return Rebekah to him. His plight has been reported by ABC News, National Public Radio and the Daily Mail in the United Kingdom. An online petition asking the governor to free Rebekah has gained more than 5,000 signatures at Change.org. Earlier this month, Brown told NPR’s “All Things Considered” he would gladly campaign for Haslam’s re-election next year if the governor returns Rebekah to his custody. There are many, however, who say the TWRA did the right thing and the governor should not contradict their actions. They say wild animals, such as raccoons (which are a leading carrier of rabies in the wild) don’t belong in a home. Doing so poses a threat to both the animals and their human hosts.
We’d like to hear from you on this subject. Should Rebekah the raccoon be returned to her human roommate?
Send your comments to Mailbag, P.O. Box 1717 Johnson City, TN 37605-1717, or firstname.lastname@example.org? . Please include your name, telephone number and address for verification.
We will print your responses on the Opinion pages in the coming weeks.